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Gov. Hickenlooper lauds Durango’s Discovery Museum, Pro Challenge

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Gov. John Hickenlooper takes questions during his visit Sunday to the Durango Discovery Museum. The museum received the state’s Creative Community Award, which will be presented in September in Golden. Hickenlooper is standing in front of one of the newer exhibits, the “Power Plant at Work,” a piece he was especially interested in seeing. At left is Aaron Kennedy, chief marketing officer with the state of Colorado.

By Robert Galin
Herald Staff Writer

While Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is officially in town to open the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race this morning, on Sunday, he paid an informal visit the Durango Discovery Museum to laud both the museum’s and Durango’s efforts to help make the state a place that will bring people from around the world.

The Discovery Museum was notified earlier this month it is a winner of the state’s Creative Community Award, which the governor will present in September in Golden. Hickenlooper was at the museum especially to see the “Powerplant at Work” exhibit sponsored by BP America Production Co., along with other exhibits.

The Pro Challenge and the Discovery Museum help create a situation similar to when Hickenlooper opened his brewpub in the then-rundown area of Denver known as Lower Downtown, often called LoDo.

“There’s a saying about cumulative attraction,” the governor told The Durango Herald. This means that the combination of multiple positive factors helps build a stronger whole, rather than relying on just one factor to drive development.

He gave the example of several shoe stores operating near each other attracting more shoppers than having just one shoe store on its own. By actually drawing more customers than just one store would, the stores share pieces of a bigger pie, rather than just one or two businesses competing for a smaller pie. It’s similar to what drove large shopping malls in the 1970s and ’80s.

Hickenlooper used cumulative attraction at his brewpub by advertising neighboring restaurants in his own establishment. The area grew from a rundown warehouse district to a destination for locals and tourists alike. That eventually led to the development of the Lower Downtown Historic District, or LoDo District Inc., and significant development.

Even when focusing on the museum alone, Hickenlooper called it “a shining light” for Colorado. He said the museum and Pro Challenge, among other Durango assets, show the rest of the world what Durango, and by extension Colorado, has to offer.

The governor also noted that with businesses such as his brewpub, which took over an old space, and the Discovery Museum, which renovated the old Durango Light and Power Co. Powerhouse, putting a little work into the infrastructure can help keep historic buildings for more modern uses. In fact, he said, the Powerhouse “building sings.”

The Discovery Museum and the Pro Challenge help with the state’s new marketing orientation, according to Aaron Kennedy, who is in town with the governor. Kennedy just took his position as the state’s chief marketing officer.

He said while the state is famous for its mountains and skiing and other “traditional” attributes, the governor’s administration wants to make sure that its progressive business climate, environmental leadership and other benefits are clear to visitors and especially to businesses that may think about relocating to the state.

The Discovery Museum has passed several milestones in its year-and-a-half existence, according to several people connected with the museum who attended the governor’s informal visit.

Bill Carver of Carver Brewing Co. said the museum is already at $750,000 toward its fundraising goal of $1.2 million. Carver, who is the museum’s fundraising chairman, said when that $1.2 million milestone is reached, the museum will get another $100,000 from the Gates Family Foundation in Denver.

Carver said the money will be used for renewing rentals of the museum’s exhibits as well as developing the “backyard” that faces Camino del Rio.

rgalin@durangoherald.com

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